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Acts 16:30

King James Version (KJV)
Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

And brought them out - From the prison.

Sirs - Greek: κύριοι kurioilords - an address of respect; a title usually given to masters or owners of slaves.

What must I do to be saved? - Never was a more important question asked than this. It is clear that by the question he did not refer to any danger to which he might be exposed from what had happened. For:

(1) The apostles evidently understood him as referring to his eternal salvation, as is manifest from their answer, since to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ would have no effect in saving him from any danger of punishment to which he might be exposed from what had occurred.

(2) he could scarcely now consider himself as exposed to punishment by the Romans. The prisoners were all safe; none had escaped, or showed any disposition to escape; and besides, for the earthquake and its effects he could not be held responsible. It is not improbable that there was much confusion in his mind. There would be a rush of many thoughts; a state of agitation, alarm, and fear; and in view of all, he would naturally ask those whom he now saw to be men sent by God, and under his protection, what he should do to obtain the favor of that great Being under whose protection he saw that they manifestly were. Perhaps the following thoughts might have tended to produce this state of agitation and alarm:

(1) They had been designated by the Pythoness Acts 16:17 as religious teachers sent from God, and appointed to “show the way of salvation,” and in her testimony he might have been disposed to put confidence, or it might now be brought fresh to his recollection.

(2) he manifestly saw that they were under the protection of God. A remarkable interposition - an earthquake - an event which all the pagan regarded as ominous of the presence of the divinity - had showed this.

(3) the guilt of their imprisonment might rush upon his mind; and he might suppose that he, the agent of the imprisonment of the servants of God, would be exposed to his displeasure.

(4) his guilt in attempting his own life might overwhelm him with alarm.

(5) the whole scene was suited to show him the need of the protection and friendship of the God that had thus interposed. In this state of agitation and alarm, the apostles directed him to the only source of peace and safety - the blood of the atonement. The feelings of an awakened sinner are often strikingly similar to those of this jailor. He is agitated, alarmed, and fearful; he sees that he is a sinner, and trembles; the sins of his life rush over his memory, and fill him with deep anxiety, and he inquires what he must do to be saved. Often too, as here, the providence of God is the means of awakening the sinner, and of leading to this inquiry. Some alarming dispensation convinces him that God is near, and that the soul is in danger. The loss of health, or property, or of a friend, may thus alarm the soul; the ravages of the pestilence, or any fearful judgment, may arrest the attention, and lead to the inquiry, “What must I do to be saved?” Reader, have you ever made this inquiry? Have you ever, like the pagan jailor at Philippi, seen yourself to be a lost sinner, and been willing to ask the way to life?

In this narrative we see the contrast which exists in periods of distress and alarm between Christians and sinners. The guilty jailor was all agitation, fear, distress, and terror; the apostles, all peace, calmness, joy. The one was filled with thoughts of self-murder; the others, intent on saving life and doing good. This difference is to be traced to religion. It was confidence in God that gave peace to them; it was the want of what led to agitation and alarm in him It is so still. In the trying scenes of this life the same difference is seen. In bereavement, in sickness, in times of pestilence, in death, it is still so. The Christian is calm; the sinner is agitated and alarmed. The Christian can pass through such scenes with peace and joy; to the sinner, they are scenes of terror and of dread. And thus it will be beyond the grave. In the morning of the resurrection, the Christian will rise with joy and triumph; the sinner, with fear and horror. And thus at the judgment seat. Calm and serene, the saint shall witness the solemnities of that day, and triumphantly hail the Judge as his friend; fearful and trembling, the sinner shall look on these solemnities with a soul filled with horror as he listens to the sentence that consigns him to eternal woe! With what solicitude, then, should we seek, without delay, an interest in that religion which alone can give peace to the soul!

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
The consolations of God to his suffering servants are neither few nor small. How much more happy are true Christians than their prosperous enemies! As in the dark, so out of the depths, we may cry unto God. No place, no time is amiss for prayer, if the heart be lifted up to God. No trouble, however grievous, should hinder us from praise. Christianity proves itself to be of God, in that it obliges us to be just to our own lives. Paul cried aloud to make the jailer hear, and to make him heed, saying, Do thyself no harm. All the cautions of the word of God against sin, and all appearances of it, and approaches to it, have this tendency. Man, woman, do not ruin thyself; hurt not thyself, and then none else can hurt thee; do not sin, for nothing but that can hurt thee. Even as to the body, we are cautioned against the sins which do harm to that. Converting grace changes people's language of and to good people and good ministers. How serious the jailer's inquiry! His salvation becomes his great concern; that lies nearest his heart, which before was furthest from his thoughts. It is his own precious soul that he is concerned about. Those who are thoroughly convinced of sin, and truly concerned about their salvation, will give themselves up to Christ. Here is the sum of the whole gospel, the covenant of grace in a few words; Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. The Lord so blessed the word, that the jailer was at once softened and humbled. He treated them with kindness and compassion, and, professing faith in Christ, was baptized in that name, with his family. The Spirit of grace worked such a strong faith in them, as did away further doubt; and Paul and Silas knew by the Spirit, that a work of God was wrought in them. When sinners are thus converted, they will love and honour those whom they before despised and hated, and will seek to lessen the suffering they before desired to increase. When the fruits of faith begin to appear, terrors will be followed by confidence and joy in God.
Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

Brought them out - Of the dungeon in which they were confined.

What must I do to be saved? - Whether this regard personal or eternal safety, it is a question the most interesting to man. But it is not likely that the jailor referred here to his personal safety. He had seen, notwithstanding the prison doors had been miraculously opened, and the bonds of the prisoners all loosed, that not one of them had escaped: hence he could not feel himself in danger of losing his life on this account; and consequently it cannot be his personal safety about which he inquires. He could not but have known that these apostles had been preaching among the people what they called the doctrine of salvation; and he knew that for expelling a demon they were delivered into his custody: the Spirit of God had now convinced his heart that he was lost, and needed salvation; and therefore his earnest inquiry is how he should obtain it. The answer of the apostles to the jailor shows that his inquiry was not about his personal safety; as his believing on Jesus Christ could have had no effect upon that, in his present circumstances. Men who dispute against this sense of the word are not aware that the Spirit of God can teach any thing to a heart, which the head of a person has not previously learned. Therefore, they say it was impossible that a heathen could make such an inquiry in reference to his eternal state, because he could know nothing about it. On this ground, how impertinent would the answer of the apostles have been: Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be put in a state of Personal Safety, and thy family! I contend that neither he nor his family were in any danger, as long as not one prisoner had escaped; he had, therefore, nothing from this quarter to fear; and, on the ground against which I contend, his own question would have been as impertinent as the apostles' answer.

Ellen G. White
Early Writings, 205

The power of God there convicted the jailer. He called for a light, and springing in, came trembling and fell down before Paul and Silas, and brought them out, and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.” The keeper of the prison then assembled his whole household, and Paul preached unto them Jesus. Thus the jailer's heart was united to those of his brethren, and he washed their stripes, and he and all his house were baptized that night. He then set food before them, and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house. EW 205.1

The wonderful news of the manifestation of the power of God in opening the prison doors, and in the conversion of the keeper and his family, was soon spread abroad. The rulers heard of these things, and were afraid, and sent to the jailer, requesting him to let Paul and Silas go. But Paul would not leave the prison in a private manner; he was not willing that the manifestation of the power of God should be concealed. He said unto them, “They have beaten us openly uncondemned, being Romans, and have cast us into prison; and now do they thrust us out privily? nay verily; but let them come themselves and fetch us out.” When these words were told to the magistrates, and it was known that the apostles were Roman citizens, the rulers were alarmed for fear they would make complaint to the emperor of their unlawful treatment. And they came and besought them, and brought them out, and desired them to depart out of the city. EW 205.2

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Ellen G. White
The Desire of Ages, 104

God does not send messengers to flatter the sinner. He delivers no message of peace to lull the unsanctified into fatal security. He lays heavy burdens upon the conscience of the wrongdoer, and pierces the soul with arrows of conviction. The ministering angels present to him the fearful judgments of God to deepen the sense of need, and prompt the cry, “What must I do to be saved?” Then the hand that has humbled in the dust, lifts up the penitent. The voice that has rebuked sin, and put to shame pride and ambition, inquires with tenderest sympathy, “What wilt thou that I shall do unto thee?” DA 104.1

When the ministry of John began, the nation was in a state of excitement and discontent verging on revolution. At the removal of Archelaus, Judea had been brought directly under the control of Rome. The tyranny and extortion of the Roman governors, and their determined efforts to introduce the heathen symbols and customs, kindled revolt, which had been quenched in the blood of thousands of the bravest of Israel. All this intensified the national hatred against Rome, and increased the longing to be freed from her power. DA 104.2

Amid discord and strife, a voice was heard from the wilderness, a voice startling and stern, yet full of hope: “Repent ye; for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” With a new, strange power it moved the people. Prophets had foretold the coming of Christ as an event far in the future; but here was an announcement that it was at hand. John's singular appearance carried the minds of his hearers back to the ancient seers. In his manner and dress he resembled the prophet Elijah. With the spirit and power of Elijah he denounced the national corruption, and rebuked the prevailing sins. His words were plain, pointed, and convincing. Many believed him to be one of the prophets risen from the dead. The whole nation was stirred. Multitudes flocked to the wilderness. DA 104.3

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Ellen G. White
Selected Messages Book 1, 157

Ministers need to have a more clear, simple manner in presenting the truth as it is in Jesus. Their own minds need to comprehend the great plan of salvation more fully. Then they can carry the minds of the hearers away from earthly things to the spiritual and eternal. There are many who want to know what they must do to be saved. They want a plain and clear explanation of the steps requisite in conversion, and there should not a sermon be given unless a portion of that discourse is to especially make plain the way that sinners may come to Christ and be saved. They should point them to Christ, as did John, and with touching simplicity, their hearts aglow with the love of Christ, say, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” Strong and earnest appeals should be made to the sinner to repent and be converted. 1SM 157.1

Those who neglect this part of the work need to be converted themselves before venturing to give a discourse. Those whose hearts are filled with the love of Jesus, with the precious truths of His Word, will be able to draw from the treasure house of God things new and old. They will not find time to relate anecdotes; they will not strain to become orators, soaring so high that they cannot carry the people with them; but in simple language, with touching earnestness, they will present the truth as it is in Jesus.—The Review and Herald, February 22, 1887. 1SM 157.2

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Ellen G. White
Christ's Object Lessons, 112

Men of piety and talent catch views of eternal realities, but often they fail of understanding, because the things that are seen eclipse the glory of the unseen. He who would seek successfully for the hidden treasure must rise to higher pursuits than the things of this world. His affections and all his capabilities must be consecrated to the search. COL 112.1

Disobedience has closed the door to a vast amount of knowledge that might have been gained from the Scriptures. Understanding means obedience to God's commandments. The Scriptures are not to be adapted to meet the prejudice and jealousy of men. They can be understood only by those who are humbly seeking for a knowledge of the truth that they may obey it. COL 112.2

Do you ask, What shall I do to be saved? You must lay your preconceived opinions, your hereditary and cultivated ideas, at the door of investigation. If you search the Scriptures to vindicate your own opinions, you will never reach the truth. Search in order to learn what the Lord says. If conviction comes as you search, if you see that your cherished opinions are not in harmony with the truth, do not misinterpret the truth in order to suit your own belief, but accept the light given. Open mind and heart that you may behold wondrous things out of God's word. COL 112.3

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